Pending, hoping and praying there isn’t some sort of 2000-esque hanging chad voter recount snafu, in just a couple of days we’ll have ourselves a new president-elect – thus, bringing one of the most vitriolic and bitter campaign cycles in U.S. history to a much, much-desired end.
I know I am in the minority, but frankly, I don’t care whether Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump wins. In fact, I genuinely don’t give a hoot who the President of the United States is and can proudly say that I have never cast my vote in a U.S. presidential election, and never will, either.
Oh, it makes people unusually angry when I tell them I don’t vote. Indeed, it’s seemingly the only thing in the world that drives the American electorate crazier than openly advocating for the candidate they don’t want to win. Almost always I am immediately given the same song and dance about not only the virtue of representative democracy, but the civic obligation to cast a ballot for some ding-dong come the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. To not care about this thing that they care about with the blind, zealous rage of your aggregate cult member drives them positively bonkers, and to be honest, that unthinking, unfeeling fury is indeed one of the primary reasons I refuse to vote.
“If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain,” the standard response goes. What a gloriously hypocritical false dichotomy, ain’t it? By that same rationale, does that mean we can only bicker and bemoan the government if we had the opportunity to directly select the person screwing everything up for us? If that’s the case, none of us can ever complain about Supreme Court decisions, since none of those positions are publicly elected. Indeed, you can say the same thing about pretty much all kinds of federal brass, from the head of the I.R.S. to the Surgeon General to the commanders of our Armed Forces to the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board. Frankly, all of the figureheads above play a much larger role in our day-to-day lives than the President or anybody in Congress, but golly gee, we didn’t elect any of them, and by the tautology of the morally obligated voter bloc, we have no wiggle room to criticize any of their actions, either.
If anything, the people who do vote are the ones who have less of a right to complain about what’s going on in Washington. After all, by engaging in the voting process, they are indeed firmly consenting that they are A-OK with the political status quo, and the federal order of the day is just dandy with them. Honestly, voting to “fix” America’s political system is like trying to cure cancer by smoking – not only is it fruitless, it only serves to make the problem worse.
Of course, it’s not just an American thing. Every representative democracy in the world – to some extent – is just a sham to cover up the inherent oligarchic nature of capitalist systems. To be sure, this is a much preferred alternative to living in a totalitarian commie regime where a four pack of Pop-Tarts costs a year’s salary and you can be exiled to a “re-education camp” for not singing the morning praises to Dear Leader passionately enough, but it’s still a pretty crummy deal.
I want you to take a real close gander at Congress. Actually, you can get the exact same response looking at your state-level congress or even your local city council. These people “hand-chosen” to represent the masses – just how many of them do you think are truly “of the soil” sorts? The average American citizen takes in less than $31,000 a year (before taxes), but I would venture to guess that NO elected official in America – on the federal, state or local level – makes a sum beneath that threshold. As a matter of fact, there isn’t a single member of Congress who earns less than $174,000 a year – and that’s just in the money taxpayers are forced to pay ’em, not even beginning to count up all the dough they reel in from their “normal” business doings.
So you’re honestly telling me what we’ve got going on is a representative democracy when two-thirds of the nation will never – by proxy of making less than $50,000 a year – have a shot at representing that democracy because they don’t have fat enough checking accounts to even think about challenging the “establishment” and their multi-million dollar coffers? Forget wedge issues like racism and sexism, the real political segregator in America – classism – isn’t just staring us in the face, it’s spitting directly in our mouths and telling us it’s fine champagne instead of drool.
The mere thought of “condoning” this absurdly prejudiced “electoral system” by voting is unfathomable to me. And don’t even try to tell me the issue is the two-party system. Canada, the U.K. and practically every capitalist state in the world not called the U.S. has the exact same oligarchic problem, even when there are eight, 12 and 28 “national” parties duking it out for legislative supremacy. And even when it’s the pro-marijuana, free-education-for-all, hippie-dippie, war-is-bad, save-the-whales, classical-libertarianism-hooray wannabe third, fourth and fifth parties, we’re still dealing with comparatively wealthy knuckleheads pretending to understand the daily rigors of working class life. Just take a look at anti-corporate Green Party folk heroine Jill Stein – a presidential candidate whose entire shtick revolves around bemoaning wealth inequality when her own personal income is ten times that of the average American. It doesn’t matter what country we’re talking about, nor the central crux of the ideological platform – show me anybody with any kind of political aspirations and I’ll show you somebody who has no idea what the common man’s life is really like.
It’s astounding how patronizing the electoral system in the States actually is. For starters, how exactly is it “representative democracy” when we don’t even utilize the popular vote to determine who wins our elections? Honestly, your vote doesn’t matter at least three times – it literally only counts if MOST people in your voting district voted for the same person, then MOST people in your state voted for the same person and THEN enough states with enough electoral points also voted for the same person. If more people in your district vote for the other candidate, that means your vote is ALREADY factored out of the process. The whole “one person, one vote” platitude is a bigger lie than Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny – in the U.S. electorate system, it truly is gerrymandering uber alles.
And is it even remotely representative democracy when we literally take away our own ability to voice our opinions on governmental matters and instill them inside some arbitrary godhead, with the only limitations on who can run for office being the girth of one’s campaign funding? For the life of me, I just can’t figure out why we can’t just hold weekly or monthly referendums on public policy issues, with the decision of how much of our tax-usurped money goes where hinging on true populism instead of having some knob who lives in the rich part of town move into an office and claim to make legislative calls on our collective behalf. Have elections for general lawmakers and budgeters, if you want, but at least put their bills to a public vote before they make it to the governor’s or president’s desk, for crying aloud.
And that, ultimately, is my chief reason for abstaining from voting, and really, the U.S. political system as a whole – instead of empowering individuals, it completely neutralizes their ability to shape the very laws and social programs they are beholden to.
Clowns to the left, jokers to the right.
Every campaign, it’s the same song and dance. This guy right here embodies everything right about modernity and if we put him in office, he’ll surely fix all our problems for us – unlike that other guy, who literally embodies everything vile about society and will do absolutely everything within his power to destroy everything we’ve worked so hard for.
Folks, that is the story of EVERY campaign ever, and even though the tune never changes, we keep falling for it. Instead of focusing on our own community issues, we instead get caught up in this great state and federal war of identity politics, where the economic and legislative matters that directly impact our lives are shooed off stage so we can yell about all the usual polemics – gun control and gay marriage and abortion and illegal immigration and the like. It’s almost like a built-in mechanism designed to produce a stalemate. American politics has never been, and never will, be about cooperation for the greater good. Instead, it’s a two, four and six-year demolition derby to appease one’s financial backers and set your camp’s next ideological godman up for an even loftier power grab – the wants and needs of the constituents be damned straight to the hottest hole in hell.
Nobody in the political arena is in it to make the world a better place. Politics, by its very nature, is about being able to lord over people and tell them what they ought to be doing. In that, today’s elected officials aren’t so much managers meant to keep the ship upright as they are symbolic manifestations of our addiction to identity politicking. We vote less to stand up for our beliefs in the best way to administer government functions than we do to send a big “F-U” to the political other. We’ve gone from electing the best technocrat for the job to fighting tooth and nail over which cultural high priest we want sitting on top of the totem pole. Why in the world would anyone want to encourage that to continue, and does anyone out there honestly think a problem that deeply entrenched in the American political landscape can simply be “voted” out of existence?
Politics truly has become a secular religion in modern U.S. society – an unblinking, unwavering, unthinking allegiance to some abstract “higher morality” amid an ocean of supposedly blasphemous false idols. Your vote isn’t doing anything to change this toxic mentality – in fact, it does nothing but guarantee the poisonous, illogical ideology lingers on. Which begs the question – just why should any of us invest our futures, our aspirations and our basic rights to human liberty inside some politician and his or her highfalutin, grandiloquent promises, anyway?
In that, voting clearly depowers you. Instead of making your own decisions and taking control of your own life, you buy into this illusion that you can only succeed if the kind of people affiliated with your prefered flavor of politics are in office. It goads you into thinking truly beneficial societal changes can only come about from top-down public policy, when the only real way to positively affect one’s environment is through concentrated, person-to-person local efforts (see: the Civil Rights Movement, the Gay Rights Movement, the Women’s Suffrage Movement, etc.) Instead of hoping and praying some legislator will scribble a pen across a piece of parchment and make our lives better, we should be working on apolitical, hyper-local, non-governmental community-based investments and improvements. If you want to make the world a better place, you can’t have a designated godman executive order it into existence; instead, you have to get your ass out on the streets and start by making your own neighborhood better first.
That’s something you can do regardless of who’s president, who’s in Congress, who’s the governor, who’s your state-level representative or who’s on your city council. And quite frankly, if we all focused on improving where we lived on a block-by-block basis without demanding Uncle Government come and fix it for us, we’d get far more beneficial results in the long-term than eight years of political wrangling, lobbying and lawmaking could ever dream of producing.
And it certainly does a hell of a lot more good for society than voting, that’s for damned sure.